More than 130 events scheduled to commence in the capital next week in celebration of Pride
By BOHEMIST STAFF
PRAGUE – Kateřina Saparová is a busy woman. Working full time and then in your spare time coordinating eight days of events across Prague for more than 25,000 people while nearly nine months pregnant, is no walk in the park.
“I hope it will be okay, the baby is due maybe one or two weeks after the parade,” Saparová said with an easy smile.
Aptly for Saparová, this year’s theme for Prague Pride is ‘Love,’ with an emphasis on equality in love. A fitting theme in a political climate where Prague’s laws restricting homosexual rights to adoption have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but not yet struck down by elected politicians.
“We want to stress that each kind of love is of the same importance, so it is also a political statement,” Bohdana Rambousková, Pride’s PR Manager said.
Prague Pride is in its sixth year and the directing committee are expecting a culmination of around 25,000 people to participate in next Saturday’s parade.
“We have several thematic focuses and one of them is families. For gay and lesbian couples getting ready to have children, or who have children and programs for parents of LBGT children,” Rambousková added.
The goal, the two coordinators said, was to create a week of events where the LBGT and hetero communities can find common ground and common platforms of understanding.
“Prague Pride is not only the parade, it’s a week-long event,” Rambousková said. “Some people don’t prefer to walk in the parade, it’s too much for them, so we hope they can choose from the other events.”
One person who won’t be walking in the parade is Deputy Mayor of Prague Petr Dolínek of the CSSD, who is lending his support to a protest march against Prague Pride called ‘March for Family’.
“Last year was the first time we had the Prague mayor in the parade,” Saparová said. “But her deputy gave his auspices to an anti-pride parade of religious organisations. This is the top management of City Hall, one is supporting Prague Pride and one is supporting a march that is directly organised against Prague Pride.”
CSSD has been in hot water recently for comments some of its members have made against plans to amend legislation governing and restricting the rights of gay couple adoption.
“We are about families too,” Pride director Saparová said with a shake of her head. She added that a number of municipal councillors had made things difficult for Pride organisers, albeit in not such an overtly undermining fashion as Dolínek.
“We would have liked the parade to go through the Old Town and the main parts of town, but it was not possible,” Saparová said. “There are small things that make life hard for us, for example we have blocked a one street in the city centre for the parade, but it is a one-way road and they will not let us drive a car down the road the wrong way, even though no other cars are allowed in the road.”
“Every year we ask for a rainbow flag on city hall, but it’s not possible,” Saparová said.
Shining a light on HIV
One of the parallel themes of this year’s Pride is a focus on HIV education and acceptance. HIV numbers in Czech Republic and Prague in particular rose nearly 20% in the first six months of this year. Saparová attributed this to the still taboo status of HIV in the Republic.
Education drives regarding HIV in the 80s died out amidst massive public funding cuts to combating the spread of the virus.
“Big problem that young people don’t know a lot about HIV. They think it is okay, that people aren’t dying, you can just eat some pills and it is okay, it’s not a big topic,” Saparová said.
The misconceptions about HIV are not limited to Czech youth.
In February this year the Prague Sanitary Office filed a criminal complaint against 30 HIV-positive men, accusing them of committing serious bodily harm and spreading a contagious disease. The HIV-positive men had presented to health authorities for treatment of sexually-transmitted infections. The health authorities concluded that the HIV-positive men must have obtained the STIs from having unprotected sex and filed the criminal charge, exposing the HIV-positive patients to up to ten years behind bars.
Police investigated all 30 criminal complaints and ultimately dropped charges against almost half of the accused. An EU-wide petition was launched asking for government intervention in the outrageous complaint, but there have been no new public announcements in the case since late March.
“The general public and experts were completely shocked as to why they (Prague Sanitary Office) had taken this step,” Rambousková said. “In Czech Republic there is no real strategy for how to approach HIV. There has been no public awareness campaign for the last 20 years.”
Helping to shed a light on HIV prevention and acceptance will be the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a HIV-activist group of drag nuns from San Francisco. A rainbow tram with testing facilities will also be making a tour through Prague mid-week.
Prague Pride runs for eight days beginning Sunday, August 7.
See the full Pride program here.